Word of the Week: SHEOL

Word of the Week: SHEOL

This week, Pastor Nathanael Mayhew digs into the unfamiliar word “sheol” and its meaning.  This word is a Hebrew word that isn’t found in all English translations.  It is used often in the Psalms, and has the basic meaning of “death” or “grave”, although it is also translated “hell” a few times.  It is a reminder that death is the just judgment we deserve because of sin and God told Adam in the Garden of Eden and as Paul reiterates when he says:  “The wages of sin is death.”  Death is a certainty in life for all people, both believers and unbelievers, because of our sin.  Sheol is used to describe sorrow (Genesis 42:38), mourning (Genesis 37:35), shortening of years (Isaiah 38:10), and loss of knowledge and wisdom (Ecclesiastes 9:10), even for the one who believes in Christ.  Without the message of Christ’s work for us in His substitutianary death and resurrection, death is an extreme terror.  But the Old Testament also proclaims the message of the Gospel to believers through victory over Sheol.  “But God will redeem my soul from the power of Sheol (the grave), For He shall receive me. Selah” (Psalm 49:15).  It also foretells the Savior’s resurrection from the dead:  “For You will not leave my soul in Sheol, Nor will You allow Your Holy One to see corruption” (Psalm 16:10).

Surely, God has not left us to die, but He has redeemed us from the power of Sheol through the death of His Son Jesus, and by His resurrection from the dead, He has assured us that we too will be brought from death to life! What an important reminder, as we look to Easter during this Lenten season.  Even so, come, Lord Jesus!

 

Word of the Week: PASSION

Word of the Week: PASSION

This week, Pastor Nathanael Mayhew digs into the word “passion” and its relationship to the season of Lent.  When we think of “passion” the English speaking mind usually thinks of love or a strong enthusiasm for something. But the word “passion” which is derived from the Greek word “pascho” actually means “to suffer.” For centuries the word “passion” has been used to describe the suffering which Jesus willingly endured for sinners to redeem them from sin and death and to reconcile them to God. When we think of the Passion of Jesus, we are reminded of all that Jesus suffered in the hours that led up to and culminated in His crucifixion. He was slapped, spit on, and beaten by the Jewish leaders and guards during the middle-of-the-night Jewish trials. He was scourged, mocked and abused by Pilate Roman soldiers. After being condemned, Jesus was forced to carry His cross to Calvary where his hands and feet were nailed to the cross and he was crucified.

The physical suffering of Jesus was indeed great. But if that is all that we think of when we consider the passion of Jesus, then we have failed to see the real suffering which Jesus endured for us. The suffering of Jesus was greater than just the physical pain He endured. Peter writes: “For Christ also suffered once for sins, the just for the unjust, that He might bring us to God” (1 Peter 3:18). Through His passion, Jesus bore the punishment for the sins of everyone in the world. He endured the just anger of God against our sins.

Jesus suffered all this because of your sin and mine. If I had no sin, I could be released of my part in the suffering and death of Jesus. But I am not without sin, and my sin made the passion of Jesus necessary. 

Thanks be to our Savior Jesus for His passion – the suffering He willingly endured in the place of sinners, that He might bring us to God! 

Bible Study – Psalms

Bible Study – Psalms

In our Bible Study episode this week, Pastors Neal Radichel and Nathanael Mayhew take us into the Old Testament book of Psalms.  This is a favorite book for many people, but at the same time it can be very intimidating because it can be difficult to understand the historical context or background of many Psalms.  This “Book” contains 150 individual “songs” that are all unique.  This is the Hymnal of the Old Testament and were often set to music with elaborate instruments.  The 150 Psalms were grouped into 5 different sections or “books” in which you can find certain themes or similarities.  There are Psalms that cover many different aspects of life including: Prayer, History, Trust, Despair, Sin, Repentance and much more.  So there is much application to our daily lives.  In addition, throughout the Psalms you will see God’s love for His people and His promise to send a Savior Who would deliver us from the punishment of our sin by suffering and dying in our place.  The Psalms are a wonderful source of comfort and encouragment for us still today as they point us to Jesus and His work as our redeemer. 

Word of the Week: CROSS

Word of the Week: CROSS

As we continue to focus on Lent, Pastor Mark Tiefel goes into the word “Cross” and its importance for the believer in Christ. Most people don’t hang onto or celebrate reminders of suffering in their life. But the Christian faith does emphasize such a reminder in the cross. Paul says that we boast not in ourselves but in the cross of Christ (Galatians 6:14ff). It was through the cross that Jesus reconciled sinful human beings to a holy God (Colossians 1:20). Christ has abolished death and the hostility that was against us through the cross (Ephesians 2:16). For these reasons the cross is a comforting thing because it reveals the grace of God for sinners. Jesus calls us to deny ourselves and take up our cross and follow him (Mark 8:34). The Christian will suffer and face persecution, but Jesus has overcome the world! It is worth it.

Review – “A Lamb Goes Uncomplaining Forth” by Paul Gerhardt

Review – “A Lamb Goes Uncomplaining Forth” by Paul Gerhardt

In our Review segment this week, Pastors Nathanael Mayhew and Rob Sauers dig into the Lenten Hymn, “A Lamb Goes Uncomplaining Forth” by Paul Gerhardt. This hymn (number 142 in The Lutheran Hymnal) was written by Paul Gerhardt, who was a faithful Lutheran pastor in Germany who lived about 100 years after Martin Luther. In this hymn Gerhardt wonderfully depicts the purpose of Christ’s suffering and death, His willingness to carry out mankind’s salvation, and the great cost which He paid to accomplish it. He also describes the resulting effect of Christ’s atonement for sin in the life of the Christian, both now and in eternity. He describes how the Christian, in view of the Savior’s sacrifice for us, offers his life as a sacrifice for Christ. Because of Jesus’ redemption, we need not fear death or the Devil, but confidently trust in our Savior, who comforts us in our earthly afflictions. We also look forward to the joy of eternal life which is ours, by faith, because Jesus has purchased our release from sin and death. What a rich spiritual heritage we have in such Scriptural Lutheran hymns as this!

Word of the Week: CONTRITION / REPENTANCE

Word of the Week: CONTRITION / REPENTANCE

In our Word of the Week we continue to focus on a Lenten theme as Pastor Rob Sauers looks at the words “contrition” and “repentance.”

Repentance was a major theme in the preaching of both John the Baptism and Jesus (Matthew 3, 4:17). The Lenten season is called a “penitential season,” that is, a season of repentance, and so it’s good for us to ask, then, “What is repentance?” The Dicitionary defines repentance in this way: “to feel or express sincere regret or remorse.” This definition really describes the first part of repentance, namely, contrition. According to the Apology to the Augsburg Confession, contrition is, “the true terror of conscience, which feels that God is angry with sin and grieves that it has sinned. This contrition takes place when sins are condemned by God’s Word.” So contrition is that internal condition of fear and terror in the conscience that feels God’s wrath against sin (Psalm 38:4,8).

Repentance starts with contrition. Sometimes this sorrow is more like fear – fear of being separated from God. This sorrow is not a worldly sorrow. That’s the kind of sorrow that Judas had after he betrayed Jesus. His was a self-centered remorse and despair that wrongly concluded that all was lost in this life, that there was no hope, and that there was nothing God could do. True contrition is godly sorrow that is worked in us by God’s Law. That’s the first part. But there is a second part of repentance. The word translated “repent” in Greek means to turn or to change one’s mind. There are many who think and teach that repentance is about turning from sinning to not sinning. In other words, they believe that repentance is about trying to do better. So according to this definition, the second part of repentance is good works. The problem with this definition is that it leaves us with no hope that we’ve done enough to turn away from our sins. Scripture teaches us that repentance isn’t about turning from doing bad things to doing good things, but it’s about turning away from ourselves and our own righteousness and turning to Jesus and His righteousness. Repentance is not saying, “I’ve sinned and so I’m not going to sin anymore.” Repentance is saying, “I’ve sinned and I can’t save myself, so I trust in Christ to forgive me and save me.”

Think of the thief on the cross at Jesus’ crucifixion. He turned away from himself and to Jesus. And Jesus replied, “Truly I say to you, today you will be with Me in Paradise.” Repentance is a turning – not from sinning to not sinning, but a turning from trusting in one’s own righteousness to trusting in Jesus to save. And so, the second part of repentance isn’t good works, but it’s faith. When we understand repentance as Scripture teaches it, we have the true comfort that as we repent of our sins, we have God’s forgiveness. Because true repentance takes our eyes off of ourselves and our own efforts, we’re not left to determine on our own if our repentance is genuine enough to obtain forgiveness. Instead, true repentance turns us to Jesus who tells us from the cross, “It is finished.” The work of our salvation has been completed. True repentance, then, is a wonderful gift from God in which He works in us through His Law and Gospel. Though the Law, God brings us to contrition, a true, godly sorrow over our sins. Though the Gospel, the Lord works faith in our hearts to turn away from ourselves and turn to God for forgiveness and salvation. So rejoice in this wonderful gift of repentance. Rejoice to confess your sinfulness and inability to save yourself as this confession is a gift from God. And then rejoice that the Lord has turned you from unbelief to faith, from life to death – because you are forgiven of all your sins.

CPR – Why you should (and shouldn’t) leave a church.

CPR – Why you should (and shouldn’t) leave a church.

In this CPR episode, Pastors Mark Tiefel, Neal Radichel and Nathanael Mayhew all join together to discuss the topic of leaving a church.  Why would a person leave a church?  1) They are running from a church because they don’t like what it is saying.  2) They don’t agree with what a church teaches.  3) They are having a personality conflict with others in the church that they are running from.  When it comes to personality conflicts we are to forgive our brother and work toward resolving the issue.  When it comes to doctrine we are to avoid the false teaching immediately for the love of the truth.  God’s Word is the standard, not our personalities.  God doesn’t tell us to try and change false teachers, he tells us to avoid false teachers, because false teaching is destructive.  We are speak the truth in love, Paul says (Ephesians 4:15).  Either way we should carry out what God would have us do in love toward those around us.  Join us for this valuable discussion.

How to Respond: All Roads Lead to Heaven

How to Respond: All Roads Lead to Heaven

It is very important to give solid answers to tough questions about the Bible. Another such question deals with whether Jesus is the only way to Heaven.

Question: Why do I need to believe is Jesus? Aren’t there many roads that lead to Heaven?

Answer: No, there are not many roads that lead to heaven. Jesus is the only way. The Bible is very clear on this point. Jesus says:“I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me” (John 14:6). He also says, “Therefore whoever confesses Me before men, him I will also confess before My Father who is in heaven. But whoever denies Me before men, him I will also deny before My Father who is in heaven” (Matthew 10:32-33). These are very exclusive statements, and the Bible is full of them. Jesus is the only way to Heaven.

We live in a world that offers us many options when it comes to employment, education, entertainment and more. We also want to believe that we have options when it come to God and the afterlife, and are deceived into accepting a blatant lie.

When a person says “all roads lead to heaven” they are saying that all religious belief systems are equal and lead to the same end. It is said: “It doesn’t matter what or who you believe, as long as you are a good person and are sincere in your beliefs.” In other words, belief in Allah, Jesus, Jehovah, Krishna, or any other god are equally acceptable options. They are all the same.

Let’s say you want to go to Chicago. Do all roads out of New York lead to Chicago? Of course not. The majority of roads out of New York will NOT get you to Chicago. So the idea of all roads leading to one place is faulty and contrary to our reason to begin with.

Some people believe that all religions are equally true. They point to the similarities between Christianity, Islam and Judaism for example. These religions all believe there is only one God, and trace their history back to Abraham in the Old Testament. But does that mean that they are essentially the same? Not at all! While there are a few similarities between religions, there are many drastic and irreconcilable differences between the religions of the world. They cannot all be true. These three religions are not describing the same god in a different way, the are describing completely different ways of salvation. They are going opposite directions!

Whether we like it or not, there are not many paths which lead to heaven. There is only one way, and that is through faith in Jesus Christ as the only Savior for sinners. His salvation is full and it is free!

If you have question you have struggled with, please share that with us at burdenandblessing@gmail.com. We will be glad to respond!

Word of the Week: REBELLION

Word of the Week: REBELLION

This Wednesday begins the season of Lent.  As we prepare for Lent, Pastor Rob Sauers takes us into a study of the word “rebellion” as it is defined in God’s Word.  Rebellion means “opposition to one in authority or dominance.” So the notion of rebellion presupposes the existence of authority. We often think of children rebelling against parents authority – not wanting to do what their parents tell them to do, and instead wanting to do those things their parents tell them not to do. Adults, too have engaged in many forms of rebellion from the household to the workplace. People don’t want to be governed and bound by a set of rules. We want what we want, when we want it, and we don’t want anyone or anything to get in our way.

The first rebel was Satan. Satan rebelled against God’s authority and was intent on setting himself up as the Most High. And when that didn’t work, Satan tempted Eve to rebel against God’s authority by eating of the fruit of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. Since those initial acts of rebellion, Satan has led mankind into a perpetual series of rebellions and the result has been chaos, destruction, and misery.  God warns us in His Word that rebellion is not a harmless and natural part of growing up, but it is a desperately wicked part of our sinful nature. There are terrifying consequences for rebellion. Samuel warned Israel in 1 Sam 12:15, “if you do not obey the voice of the LORD, but rebel against the commandment of the LORD, then the hand of the LORD will be against you, as it was against your fathers.” Maybe the most frightening consequence of rebellion against God is that God simply allows us to destroy ourselves if we remain rebellious. In Romans 1 verses 21 and 28 Paul writes, “Even though they knew God, they did not honor Him as God, or give thanks; but they became futile in their speculations, and their foolish heart was darkened.… Just as they did not see fit to acknowledge God any longer, God gave them over to a depraved mind, to do those things which are not proper.”

What was true of ancient man is still true today. We are all rebels at heart. We don’t want to listen to God. As Psalm 107:11 says we have “rebelled against the words of God, And despised the counsel of the Most High.” We have that same sinful nature that has been passed on to us by Adam and Eve. Paul writes in Romans 8:7, “the carnal mind is enmity against God; for it is not subject to the law of God, nor indeed can be.” Since people have dismissed the concept of God, “There is no fear of God before their eyes.” as Romans 3:18 says. Spiritual things are ridiculous to the natural man. 1 Corinthians 2:14 says, “the natural man does not receive the things of the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him; nor can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned.”

By nature we rebel against God and as a result rely upon our own experience, reason, and feelings to guide our beliefs, attitudes, and behavior, and they won’t lead us in a godly direction. Our rebellion only leads away from God, and we deserve God’s punishment for our rebellion. Thank God that He has turned us from our rebellious nature. By His grace, the Lord leads us to repent of our sins, and as we turn to the Lord in repentance, the Lord comes to us with His love and forgiveness.

Maybe the best picture of this in all of Scripture is Jesus’ parable of the Prodigal Son. The Prodigal son is the picture of rebellion. The prodigal son did not want to be under his father’s authority. He asked for his inheritance early so that he could go off and live as he wanted under no one’s authority. The father gave him the inheritance and so he went out and lived a rebellious life. But things didn’t turn out as He had hoped. He quickly got himself into trouble. The son repented, went back to his father to confess his sins and to beg his father to make him one of his hired servants.  And how did the father react? With pure joy at the sight of his son. He saw his son returning and ran out to meet him. The prodigal son confessed his sins of rebellion, but couldn’t even get out the part about being treated as a servant. The father was so overcome with joy that he had his son back that he right away completely reinstated him as his son. In this parable, we are the prodigal son, and the Father is God the Father. And that’s how He reacts to us when we repent of our rebellious ways and turn to Him. It’s that same love that moved Him to send His Son to live the perfect life in our place, never rebelling against the Father’s authority and will. And then he went to the cross to die for all of our sins of rebellion. Thanks be to God for His love in the face of our rebellion.

 

Couldn’t God have used evolution to create the world?

Couldn’t God have used evolution to create the world?

Couldn’t God have used evolution to create the world?

That’s an interesting question.  But it’s also a demonic one.  That’s right, I said demonic.  As in it is an idea from the devil (aka, Satan).

Allow me to explain further.  When it comes down to it, there are really only two different beliefs in this world – belief there IS a God, or belief that there ISN’T a god.

The “scientific” theory of EVOLUTION begins with the world view (belief) that there is no god.  I say “scientific” because any scientific theory is measured and recorded by observable evidence.  No man or woman has measured the age of the universe as it supposedly came about over the claimed millions (now billions) of years of its existence.  In reality, the faith of evolution is trusting in the theories of science as the only universal absolutes.

The scientific “theory” of CREATION begins with the world view (belief) there is one God.  I say “theory” because unlike an evolutionist’s claims, God was actually there to measure and record what He created (observable evidence).  The word science simply means knowledge. So in reality, the faith of creationism is trusting in the Bible as God’s Word (2 Timothy 3:16) and as the one and only universal absolute.

Here’s where the problem or question can occur.

But what if I believe that the Bible is God’s Word, but I also believe the theory of evolution that the universe evolved over billions and billions of years?  In attempting to BRIDGE these two world views you wouldn’t be surprised for me to ask a question like:

Couldn’t God have used evolution to create the world?

This growing question in Christianity is really the product of two different theories often referred to as “Theistic Evolution” (God created or started evolution), or also referred to as “Old Earth Creationism” (That each of the ‘six days’ of Genesis 1 were actually millions or billions of years longer than six normal days). However you want to label or name the theory, the concept between God and Evolution is bridged in this belief = God planted the initial seeds of life, and then had evolution take over.

At first glance, that seems like this theory could be a Biblical, rational, scientific approach that beautifully marries modern scientific reason with Christianity.  But actually, it is an adultery of God’s Word.  I won’t spend excess time here going into the original Hebrew language and explaining the plain use of “day” in Genesis 1 and how it is used the same way throughout the rest of the Old Testament and by Jesus in the New Testament in the same 24 hour “evening and morning” way.  Or the blasphemous disrespect that God may have needed or used millions and billions of years with evolution to “create” all things as we know them.  Rather, I want to focus on how this Satanic question is so similar to the devil’s doubtful question “Did God really say?” in Genesis 3 and what it subtlety implies about the CHARACTER of our Creator God.

Couldn’t God have used evolution to create the world?   Yes, of course He has the ability to do that if He wanted.  But No, He wouldn’t ever do that based on His CHARACTER – who He is, what He does, or the kind of Creator God that He demonstrates for us throughout His Word – which sets Him endlessly and unfathomably apart from any of the man-made gods of this world.

Genesis 2:7 and 2:22 says, “And the LORD God formed man of the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living being.” 22 Then the rib which the LORD God had taken from man He made into a woman, and He brought her to the man.”

Man and Woman were God’s special creation that is obviously clear. This isn’t some evolutionary process. Everything that God created was for mankind.  God treats mankind just as what they are – His created children.  Jesus plainly teaches us that we are to call God “Our Father” in the Lord’s Prayer (Matthew 6:9) and “Be perfect, just as your Father in heaven is perfect” (Matthew 5:48).  God would even come to this world and take on our flesh in Jesus Christ (as true man and true God) to lovingly, selflessly, and sacrificially suffer death on the cross for the rebellious, disobedient sin of the whole world (John 3:16).  So how does this help us with the question?

Couldn’t God have used evolution to create the world?

It’s helpful to ask this question at the same time…

Wouldn’t God just leave us to suffer and die alone?

 The answers are “No.” to both questions.  He is not that kind of God or Father.  Earthly, sinful parents who are excited and eagerly expecting to bring a child into the world take all kinds of care to prepare a room and nursery for their child, have all the proper furniture, all the right clothes, and all the necessities and even toys ready when the time comes to bring the child home.   That’s exactly the kind of CHARACTER our Heavenly Father shows to us in Genesis 1.  Careful, planned preparation and divine execution to bring His children into a perfect world.  A world where He wouldn’t abandon them to random evolutionary chance or a “survival of the fittest” godlessness (fatherless).  And how could God have called millions and billions of years of death, “good”? (Genesis 1:31)

Even if someone argued, “God could have overseen all that preparation with evolution!” we would back up and say that’s like suggesting those same parents just threw all the furniture parts, clothing fabric, and unassembled toys, etc. into the nursery room to come together on their own before the baby would happen along.  What lame, irresponsible parents would do such a thing?   What an insult to God’s power and wisdom to suggest that about our Father in Heaven.  When it comes to this theory that’s what He did with evolution.

Isaiah 29:16 Surely you have things turned around! Shall the potter be esteemed as the clay; For shall the thing made say of him who made it, “He did not make me”? Or shall the thing formed say of him who formed it, “He has no understanding”?

Rather, God’s recorded Word goes on from Genesis 1 to show you and me that His love for us is beyond our comprehension.

1 John 3:1 How great is the love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God! And that is what we are! The reason the world does not know us is that it did not know Him.

Hebrews 13:5 For He Himself has said, “I will never leave you nor forsake you.”

If you find yourself hearing, or even tempted to be thinking, Couldn’t God have used evolution to create the world?   Just think why the devil would want that thought in your mind.  Satan doesn’t want you to trust God’s Word.  Satan wants you to pick it apart.  Satan wants to make you “prove” it.  Ultimately, Satan wants to ruin your relationship with your Savior Jesus Christ.  Jesus has proved to you His love and faithfulness by His sacrifice on the cross for you, so that you can spend eternity in His awesome and amazing heavenly home!

Romans 5:8 But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.

Couldn’t God have used evolution to create the world?   No.  That completely goes against His character!